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The Devil in the Dark [1998] by By Gabriella Print E-mail
Sunday, 13 August 2006

The Star Trek episode “Devil in the Dark” described how humankind almost killed the last Horta – a mysterious stone being – because they couldn’t communicate with it. With Nick Cave you can communicate, but that doesn’t make understanding him any easier. Clad in black, his age and looks seem to shift constantly between the wisdom of an ancient, emaciated Asian priest and the lanky scrawniness of a growing puppy.

Singer, songwriter, teller of scurrile stories about death, murder, pain and insanity, Nick Cave, the former singer of The Birthday Party, has always been a hypnotic figure and often seems as if he has just gotten back from Hell – where he had lunch with the devil, and it inspired him to write a couple of new songs.

 

Generally, a “Best Of” album is a collection of hit singles or marks the end of a certain phase or chapter in the work of an artist...

You can’t say that I had a lot of single hits. “Where the Wild Roses Grow” was probably the only single hit I’ve ever had, but being on the cover of music magazines was never an aim I had.

So what was the impetus behind publishing a “Best Of” album? Nick Cave says goodbye to a phase and starts a new chapter? Maybe a cheerier one?

I think it was time to do that. I think it makes some sense. I hope it makes some sense. Mainly the reasons were really selfish. A lot of the songs... actually I didn’t hear most of the songs since I recorded them. I was almost afraid to listen to them, what I would feel listening to them, how they would grip me, but in the end I really liked them.

Commercially, Where The Wild Roses Grow was your most successful album. How did it feel to find your music in the Top 10? What changed for you?

Not much changed. Basically nothing. I was touring a lot, playing festivals, wrote songs for Johnny Hillcoats album To Have and to Told. I worked with Mick Harvey and Blixa Bargeld, we wrote a song for the X-Files album. Oh yeah, and then I was reading poems in the Royal Albert Hall. That’s what I liked best, that was fun.

Strange. You saying something was fun really does sound strange.

Why? I know that I don’t have a lot of time to waste, so I’m not looking for fun, not wasting my time looking for fun things to do but if something is fun I might as well enjoy it.

For a while your fans were afraid that every album could be your last one...

Well, that’s true.

Don’t you think you were pushing yourself a bit too far? You wrote lyrics with blood and took a lot of drugs. For a while when I heard your name I always thought of the Neil Young song “Too Far Gone.” You seemed to be so self-destructive...

Not really. No, I don’t think so. I just saw things differently then. When you’re young you don’t know anything about death. You don’t even have an idea what death means. As you grow older, you’re getting closer to it and one day you’re going to wake up and realize that you’ll die one day. You just wake up and realize that youth and life doesn’t go on forever and you know you’ll die, one day, sooner or later. The moment you find out about death, that you’re going to die, it changes your life completely. I was growing older and I realized that I don’t have time to waste, that my life is slipping away, that I have to use every minute of it.

You gave up drugs?

That depends.

OK, let me rephrase it. You used to have a drug problem; do you still have it?

I think I have it under control. Of course, I’m still taking drugs, but the way I’m taking drugs has changed. I know that I don’t have to take them. I cannot take them for long periods of time. I can decide now if I want to take drugs, when I want to take drugs and when not. That’s completely different. That’s really new and not at all like what I was used to.

Aren’t you afraid that you might slip back? That you might lose your life? If you think you’re running out of time, then why risk the time that’s left with drugs?

As I said, I have control now. But I found out that I can take quite a lot. It’s not like you can knock me out with a feather. It really takes a lot to bring me down. I really can take a lot.

You’ve never been one for rock’n’roll...

I love rock’n’roll. I think it’s an exciting art form. It’s revolutionary. Still revolutionary and it changed people. It changed their hearts. But yeah, even rock’n’roll has a lot of rubbish, really bad music...

Like what?

The people, the ones who don’t care for the music, the guys who don’t love the music and just do it for the sake of money. Money, girls and fame.

Some people call you the prophet of doom...

Oh well, I never made a secret out of the fact that I’m only writing about one thing: my own obsessions.

So you’re not sitting somewhere in an ivory tower trying to make up depressing songs?

No, I’m such a depressing person, ha ha. I lean back and the stories come to me. I don’t make them up. They come to me and I write them down.

A lot of your songs deal with the desire to have a relationship and most end with the inability to have one. Does that describe yourself?

A lot of my songs reflect the lessons I’ve learned in my life. Love isn’t something that happens all that often, reciprocal love. Relationships usually have nothing to do with love. Love... Love is like a promise. For me it’s a promise, a romantic big promise between two people. That’s the perfect, romantic love.

 

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